Thursday, 22 October 2015

Birdwatch - latest editorial

November 2015 | Issue 281

If any evidence were needed of just how detached from the environment some sections of society have become, it can be found in the recent furore over carrier bags. Vociferous debate over the new 5p charge for bags in England, stirred up by parts of the media, often misrepresented the purpose of the policy – not to make money (with the charges instead being passed on to charities, including the RSPB), but to encourage a change in behaviour which will ultimately benefit the environment. Current usage figures are shocking, having risen to 8.5 billion single-use carrier bags provided by major supermarkets alone in 2014 – that averages about 130 per person in Britain annually.

As someone who spends an unhealthy amount of time (literally) around rubbish tips watching gulls, I’ve seen the vast amounts of non-biodegradable waste that go daily into landfill, and the countless bags which get wind-blown across the surrounding countryside. I’ve also seen the directly harmful consequences, with bag handles frequently ensnaring birds, often preventing them from feeding and resting, and sometimes leading to the loss of limbs (something everyone can help avoid by routinely cutting the handles before discarding old bags). Introducing a charge has already been shown to work – in Wales it led to a 79 per cent decrease in use of carrier bags in the first three years, with clear environmental benefits which also included carbon savings.

If it was down to me, an initiative like this should be considered for an award. But it’s not – it’s down to you. Along with campaigns to preserve the EU’s Birds and Habitats Directives, end the illegal killing of migrating birds in the Mediterranean, stop drilling in the Arctic and eradicate rats on South Georgia, it’s on the shortlist in just one of the categories of our second annual Birders’ Choice Awards. This is your chance to have your say and acknowledge the initiatives, people and products that have made a real difference over the last 12 months – please take a few moments to cast your vote.

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